Oldies But Goodies

Wakefield’s Art-O-Mat turns cigarette machines into a healthy habit


Rhode Island’s only Art-O-Mat has popped up at The Purple Cow in Wakefield. This vintage cigarette-machine-turned-art-dispenser is one of over 100 located around the world, and lets users purchase one-of-a-kind art at a nominal price. The original Art-O-Mat was created for a solo show by North Carolina artist Clark Whittington. It was such an instant hit that Clark expanded the concept into an ongoing art installation and collaboration, offering easy access to original works by over 300 artists. Collectively the machines dispense about 90,000 pieces of art each year.

Each machine has a “sponsor” who decides its path; Rhode Island’s is local glass and jewelry artist Luisa DeLuca. Originally located in her own shop in 2006, the Art-O-Mat spent some time north of “the Tower” at Myopic Books in Providence and then returned “home” and relocated to Painted Karma in Wakefield. According to The Purple Cow owner Melinda Witham, the reaction to it has been amazing. “Who wouldn’t want it? It’s so cool,” she says. “I love hearing the old-fashioned clunk-clunk noise when the lever is pulled.”

Now, instead of dispensing smokes, these machines are feeding a much healthier habit: art collecting.